ABC affiliates pre-empt NASCAR coverage
This is the first season of the ESPN production crew bringing the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series to the ABC broadcast affiliates. These local stations comprise the system of TV delivery that NASCAR mandated for the "Chase For The Championship." These races must be on broadcast TV nationwide. At least, that was the idea.
Saturday night, the NEXTEL Cup broadcast from Lowe's Motor Speedway began at 7PM with a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Countdown, the pre-race show. This is not a distinctly separate program, but basically a thirty minute lead-in to the event where interviews and features are added from the Infield Studio by Suzy Kolber and her team. Brent Musburger was on-hand to "host" the festivities.
This race has been on the 2007 NASCAR schedule since it was released in late 2006. The ABC Sports schedule had been out for months. The ESPN on ABC production team had a beautiful night in the greater Charlotte area with absolutely no rain in sight.
Musburger's familiar refrain of "you are looking live" came across right on time as the flashy opening of the program recapped The NEXTEL Chase for the Championship to this point. It was going to be a big night in NASCAR, and a big night for ABC.
Kolber welcomed ESPN's analyst Rusty Wallace and commentator Brad Daugherty to the Infield Studio. After race highlights from Talladega, both Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were interviewed live. Over the next thirty minutes the top drivers talked about their cars, the analysts talked about the race, and even Bank of America President appeared to back-up their multi-million dollar commitment to this event.
But, things were very different for one key area of the nation. Broadcast TV stations are talked about by their DMA's. That stands for Designated Market Area, and represents their ranking in the country among the one hundred and fifty markets.
Los Angeles is number two. Slightly behind New York, the LA market is key for both advertisers and TV ratings. With slightly over 5.6 million households, this area is a heavy hitter for both the local TV stations and the broadcast TV networks.
Saturday night, as the ESPN on ABC gang talked about the upcoming race and reviewed the happenings at Talladega, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate KABC pre-empted this telecast. It was time for Eyewitness News. Trapped between a college football game and a NASCAR race, the Program Director decided to drop Los Angeles out of the thirty minute NASCAR pre-race show and do the news.
The only thing was, this executive apparently did not tell ESPN or ABC or anyone else who really mattered. When the full newscast was over, KABC ran several minutes of commercials, and then just "slammed" into the live network telecast. They actually joined it right as the command to start engines was given. More at Daily Planet